It is not reasonable to expect much in the way of meaningful progress without setting clear objectives. As with many other areas of business, health and safety performance will be improved by the setting of appropriate objectives and the subsequent achievement of them.
Objectives can be strategic, tactical or operational:
- strategic objectives can be set to improve the overall performance of the OH&S management system (e.g. to eliminate noise exposure);
- tactical objectives can be set at facility, project or process level (e.g. to reduce noise at source);
- operational objectives can be set at the activity level (e.g. the enclosure of individual machines to reduce noise).
You do not need to establish H&S objectives for every risk as that would lead to there being too many. Therefore, you need to select a few objectives that, if achieved will make the biggest positive impact on health and safety.
When setting objectives, ensure that they:
- are consistent with the H&S policy;
- are measurable (if practicable) or capable of performance evaluation;
- take into account:
- applicable (e.g.: legal, contractual etc.) requirements;
- the results of risk assessment;
- the results of consultation with workers, and, if applicable, workers’ representatives;
- be monitored;
- be communicated;
- be updated as appropriate.
You may also want to use the popular SMART model for setting objectives in which they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound.
If an initial gap analysis of your health and safety management system reveals it to need significant development, the early emphasis will probably need to be on training people so that an improved health and safety planning process can be established as a basis for further development. Early decisions about the adequacy of workplace precautions (i.e.: risk assessment) and compliance with the law will also be necessary.
As a foundation of competence is established, a sound health and safety planning and risk assessment process should emerge which will lead to improved control over significant risks. As improved control is established, the emphasis can shift to devising more comprehensive risk control systems and more effective management arrangements to establish a complete health and safety management system.
As the specific components of the system are established and embedded, the emphasis can shift again to maintaining and developing the system to ensure there are no gaps or weaknesses and to consolidate the health and safety culture.
The foundation will then have been laid for a programme of continuous improvement.
Planning to Achieve Objectives
You can plan to achieve objectives individually or collectively. Plans can be developed for multiple objectives where necessary.
You should examine the resources required (e.g. financial, human, equipment, infrastructure) to achieve the objectives.
When practicable, each objective should be associated with an indicator which can be strategic, tactical or operational.
When planning how to achieve the H&S objectives, consider the following factors:
- what resources will be required;
- who will be responsible;
- when it will be completed;
- how the results will be evaluated, including indicators for monitoring;
- how the actions to achieve H&S objectives will be integrated into other business processes.